Good oral health is a fundamental aspect of overall health, regardless of age. Dental problems can worsen existing health issues, potentially resulting in complications like malnutrition, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory infections. Additionally, oral health concerns can influence speech, digestion, and social interactions, significantly affecting overall quality of life. Aging is a journey, so make sure to look out for your pearly whites!
Common Effects of Aging on Dental Health
After decades of chewing, biting, and grinding, teeth and gums naturally accumulate a certain level of wear and tear that can cause the enamel to thin. The American Dental Association (ADA) refers to this time as the “second round of cavity prone years.” As you age, it becomes increasingly important to practice proper oral hygiene techniques.
Other common dental issues for adults ages 65+ include:
- Dry Mouth
- Loss of Sensitivity
- Muted Taste and Feeling
If you experience any unexplained pain in your mouth, contact your Smile dentist immediately.
What Dental Issues are Seniors More at Risk For?
Contrary to popular belief, teeth don’t naturally soften as we age. Yet, the risk of tooth loss increases due to factors such as inadequate oral hygiene and untreated dental problems. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), older adults are more prone to cavities, gum disease, tooth loss, and other dental issues. Approximately 1 in 5 adults ages 65+ have at least one untreated cavity, and 68% exhibit some level of gum disease.
Additionally, the chance of developing oral cancer rises as one ages. The American Cancer Society notes the average age for individuals diagnosed with mouth, throat, and tongue cancer is 62. Keep an eye out for the following signs:
- An ulcer in your mouth that lasts more than three weeks.
- A red or white patch inside your mouth.
- A lump inside your mouth, lip, neck, or throat.
- Chronic pain inside your mouth.
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking (a hoarse/croaky voice).
Denture Wear and Care
As we age, the likelihood of tooth loss increases. The CDC estimates that 26% of adults ages 75+ face complete tooth loss. For seniors facing tooth loss, dentures may be a comfortable option. Dentures are a removable replacement for missing teeth and the surrounding tissues. Full dentures are recommended when an entire set of teeth needs replacing, while partial dentures are utilized when a patient retains some natural, healthy teeth.
Here are some tips to keep dentures in their optimal condition:
- Clean them daily.
- Avoid using stiff-bristled brushes and whitening/abrasive toothpastes.
- Avoid hot beverages that could warp them.
- Remove and rinse dentures after eating.
- Keep dentures moist when not being worn. When not worn, dentures should be placed in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in water, so they do not dry out or lose their shape.
Dental health is a comprehensive commitment involving regular dental visits, proper oral hygiene, a healthy lifestyle, and addressing unique challenges as they come up. By prioritizing oral health, seniors can maintain a vibrant smile, enjoy their favorite foods, and ward off dental disease in their golden years. Remember, a healthy smile contributes to confidence at any age!